Hand of Fate Review | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Hand of Fate Review

Brought to the world by Defiant Development, Hand of Fate blends together seemingly disparate elements into a wonderfully presented package. The core gameplay loop merges third person action combat akin to the Arkham games and their ilk with a card game controlled by The Dealer as you do battle against his array of hand selected cards found within his cabinet. The cabinet contains a collection of twelve different bosses belonging to one of the four main suits representing the handful of different enemy types you will engage over the length of Hand of Fate.

Each session begins with a short preparation stage to examine and alter the two decks under your control: Encounters and Equipment. The equipment is fairly self explanatory as it contains any weapons, armor, magical artifacts, and rings you amass over the course of the game. The Encounters deck is what drives Hand of Fate as the Dealer draws from this deck to place a handful of cards in a tarot-esque array. Moving your small character token atop these cards reveals each encounter in turn – the events determined by your choices and, in place of traditional dice rolling or a random number generator, a quick game of Find the Lady to further resolve any encounters. Should an encounter force you into combat, monster cards are drawn and the game transitions from the tabletop card game described up until now and becomes a third person action game with combat similar to the Batman Arkham games.

Anyone familiar with the Arkham style combat will immediately feel at home as enemies swarm around you providing ample opportunity to attack, dodge, and counter your way up to the combo meter. Strictly from a design sense, it acts as a means to counteract the randomness otherwise running rampant in Hand of Fate. However, the combat is … serviceable. By this, I mean that it is functional, but it feels bland and lackluster and not just because it does not bring anything new to the system. It is quite simple to continually bounce between enemies like a particularly violent pinball and rack up a significant number of hits on your combo meter which should feel rewarding. It does not. Some stilted animations and an inconsistent tempo courtesy of constantly engaging and disengaging slow motion makes it hard to keep a steady rhythm in combat. Furthermore, even with the most powerful weapons, attacks do not feel impactful. This is only further exacerbated when late game combat can include over a dozen enemies at a time which gain extra health further slowing your progress through Hand of Fate.

Alternatively, there is the Endless mode which uses all the cards currently unlocked only to end when the Dealer is able to kill you. After continually running through the story mode, this proved to be a welcome reprieve because it really tests your knowledge of your entire collection. It also feels more strategic balancing between trying to unlock new cards from uncompleted encounters, attempting to push your luck to get some good equipment early, or playing it safe in an attempt to chase a new high score. Conversely, there are multiple occasions where random chance can end a game before it really gets started. On one occasion, in the very first encounter I had to battle the final two bosses found in Story mode and I proceeded to die in record time. Alternatively, there are some particularly nasty combinations of cards which can end an otherwise excellent run without a chance to respond. Although not exactly common, these situations do arise, and can be increasingly frustrating.

Another unfortunate issue, specifically concerning my PlayStation 4 review copy, is the frequency of bugs and glitches which, dare I say, plague the game. My time with Hand of Fate was checkered with a slew of audio issues from simply becoming unsynchronized with the gameplay, to a complete loss of audio. I also noticed that as I continued to build up a larger library of cards, the game lagged more and more often, dropping frames became an all too common occurrence and eventually led to the game freezing and/or crashing several times. That said, I spent my own money for a PC version of Hand of Fate because despite my gripes with the game, I still itch to play it and, thankfully, the PC version is much more stable and I cannot report any issues with it as of yet.

The source of this itch to keep playing can be directly attributed to the Dealer. The Dealer fills a strange role – something transcending the game itself falling into a somewhat obtuse virtual identity for Defiant Development as a whole. With self-referential humor and sarcastic wit, the Dealer is the evolution of Bastion’s narrator in the best way possible. A quick remark claiming a card is too powerful and needs to be rebalanced reflects the challenges of the developer, a begrudging compliment, and builds a repertoire connecting you two as companions. Whereas dropping the occasional threat places you two as rivals. The Dealer is a nexus merging together disparate game mechanics into a cohesive whole. Not only that, but manages to do so in a wonderfully presented package, both in style and theme.

At the end of the day, despite the numerous technical issues and my apprehension towards the combat, it is still a game that is on my mind a month after starting to review it. The issues I found with Hand of Fate prevent me from being able to recommend this to your average gamer. But, they way Hand of Fate holds itself together with its unique presentation and concept really make it stand out in an intriguing way. It is perhaps the most deserving game to be described as a hidden gem. It has some impurities and may stick out at some awkward angles, but there is certainly a spark hidden inside. I can think of no better example of my opinion towards Hand of Fate then, despite being given a free copy to review, I still spent the $25 to purchase the game to support Defiant Development.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *